Reaping the benefits of the past two weeks
Back to real life and contemplating the benefits of all that effort. The general view is that those with dementia need familiar surroundings and that home is best but I think this is one of those situations where you need to use your judgement and plan accordingly. Before you read the rest of this post you may need to know, or be reminded, that 14 months ago Ash rarely knew where he was; couldn't make a decision; was in a constant state of extreme anxiety; was usually on the verge of breaking down emotionally; was permanently angry at the world in general and me in particular; couldn't remember where we'd been or who with when we were on our way home from somewhere; sat for hours in silence staring into space and seemed to be rapidly descending into his own little world. And so to the past two weeks: We have always holidayed and usually several times a year. Often in this country but frequently abroad and almost always independently so Ash is used to dealing with airports, flights, hotels, apartments, campsites, resorts, self-catering etc. As I've said before he seems under less pressure when we're away and if it's just the two of us he can say if he's anxious, he can talk if he wants or be silent if that suits him better, he can have the television on or not, he can listen to the radio or not, we can go out or stay inside. He can do what he wants when he wants and that actually seems to relax him. This holiday wasn't perfect and we had a couple of sticky moments when he didn't know where we were or what he wanted to do and the five hour time difference was difficult when we arrived at each end but on the whole all of the planning paid off I think and the benefits have been amazing. Each time we do something different I've noticed that Ash's confidence increases and this holiday was no different. He managed to negotiate a four hour drive to Gatwick and back, two airports, a nine and a half hour flight, shopping in a different country, staying somewhere totally unfamiliar and a visit to a US health clinic with no problem whatsoever. We ate out in restaurants as well as cooked for ourselves, we watched the Superbowl surrounded by people who knew what was going on, we watched the State of the Union address on US television wishing we had the BBC for commentary, we watched incompetent golfers right outside our window, we swam, sunbathed and visited a shopping mall (necessity rather than choice as Ash lost his one and only sweatshirt and we had no sun at that point to keep us warm) and generally relaxed. Last night when we got home he said, unprompted, that it had been a lovely holiday, for the first time in months he voluntarily put the clothes he'd been wearing in the wash and then suggested we invited ................ and ................ for a meal as we haven't seen them for a while. I was dumbstruck but so relieved that I do know him as well as I thought I did and that this trip was a good idea. So what I'm trying to say here is that holidays might not be for you any more. They might be beyond your loved one's capability but don't assume that staying at home is the right thing to do just because dementia is in your life. As in 'normal' life everyone is different. Watch, see what's required and then plan accordingly. You can do it! If however you have some questions or want a little advice from someone who's lived through it then email me and ask. It doesn't have to be something as major as this, it could just be a weekend away but I might have some ideas you haven't thought of.